Friday, 30 October 2009

shanghai palace @ chatswood

Ever so rarely, my close group of friends go out for Chinese. We seem to always put Chinese at the bottom of our list of places to eat at. The very reason being that most of us come from a Chinese background, eat Chinese at home on a daily basis or already have a Chinese restaurant that we go to with family. But once in a blue moon, one of the boys will suggest a Chinese dinner and well, it actually ends up being a lot of fun. And as much as we all dread ordering the same dishes that we order when we usually eat Chinese, we just go ahead and order them again. After all, we are meant to be eating Chinese.

This was a Friday night dinner with about 10 of us at Shanghai Palace in Chatswood (directly opposite to the Chatswood Chase carpark entrance). Nothing like Peking duck to start off the night!
Steamed fish. (Definitely one of the healthier things to eat at a Chinese restaurant)
My friend A insisted on ordering Prawn toast and we all laughed when we saw this plate come out. To be honest, I'm not sure why I laughed except that I thought it was funny at the time. FYI: There's 3 servings on this plate.
Beef and beans in black pepper sauce.
Deep fried tofu. There was meant to be a filling to this one (or so it said on the menu). In my piece, there was something that looked like prawn but for the most part, it was plain tofu.
Align CenterSalt & Pepper white bait. When this dish came out, we suddenly all realised that we'd ordered a lot of fried food. I'm usually quite fond of this dish but had to agree, too much fried food for one night.
Shantong Chicken. This dish is one of my favourites and certainly done well here.

It's actually not a bad idea to eat Chinese with friends. You end up being able to taste a whole variety of foods, the chatter seems just that little more animated when you're sitting around a round table and well, it's economical. (well if you order seafood, expect to pay a little more). Shanghai Palace is actually known for its Singapore Crab as well as Crab Congee which I have yet to try. Definitely next time!

Notice any difference in the photos and how they're watermarked? J has decided to contribute the photography to this blog and so you'll be seeing more of him (or his photos anyway in posts moving forward). Hope you like them!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

homer's cafe for lunch

Finally a bit of downtime to catch up on some posts. Annoying thing is that I'm trying to type on an EEE PC designed for someone with much smaller fingers and well, it keeps doing funny things on me. The text seems to move by itself or not appear at all, but then appear much later when I'm in the middle of another sentence. Ah well, I can't complain, I'm leaching off someone's internet at the moment and fingers crossed they don't find out!

So trawling through some of the photos from the last month or two, here were some pics taken at Homer's cafe in Eastwood. I've previously blogged about how they're open late for dessert but I probably didn't mention that they're also open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. J&I came here for lunch one weekend and I was quite surprised to find this on the menu:

Green tea latte. The first time I had a was probably in Japan and I'd come home eagerly seeking it out. I found a patisserie in Hunter Connection that had it and well, for awhile Starbucks and Gloria Jeans both had their Green Tea Frappuccinos (they've been sadly missed!) but other than that, no place close seemed to serve it up. Well now I know Homer's does and it's a pretty good one!
There's quite a selection of lunch items on offer. From sandwiches, toasts, to pastas, burgers and steaks. J got the lunch special Burger which I was a bit skeptical of (as I am with anything so named 'lunch special'. It's probably got to do with the fact that I've worked in the food industry and specials don't usually imply anything that spectacular). Anyway, I was proved wrong, J's burger ended up being juicier and tastier than the foccacia I ordered. Thumbs up to the chips here, they know how to cook a good chip!

I'm quite keen to try breakfast and dinner at Homer's. So far, lunch and late night dessert have not disappointed and really, I'm quite attracted to their booth seats inside. Most importantly, they do serve up a green tea latte which is my favourite!

Monday, 19 October 2009

azuma patisserie @ george st., regents place

It hasn't been more than 2 weeks but I've found myself at Azuma Patisserie twice already. For a place that serves none other than cake (plus it's not exactly on the way), I have to say I'm addicted. J's accompanied me both times and whilst he complained about the shop being too hot on the first visit, he's obliging and let's me choose my cake. Here's what we had on our first visit:
This was the one that caught my eye - Orange Chiboust. From what I could taste, it's a frangipane tart topped with creme patisserie, orange slices with a orange mousse/creme brulee sitting on top. The flavours are subtle in the true tradition of Japanese desserts.
Pear & Caramel Mousse Cake. There was a slightly bitter taste to this one which I couldn't work out if it was from the ripeness of the pears or if it was alcohol in the cake.
Mugi cha.
The cakes are no doubt baked fresh on the premises; as we sat in the shop, we watched biscuits and cakes come out of the oven, and the fridge cabinet being replenished with more cakes as they were made ready. A small queue formed out the door as we ate and yes, admittedly it was slightly warm sitting inside the shop (the ovens and stoves all in action) but outdoor seating is available which will be handy for the next time that I'm there.

So glad I found this place!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

soba noodles & gyoza

I've been a bit of a hopeless blogger and there aren't even any excuses this time. Mum's back home, work's not that busy, I've just been pure lazy and let the blog posts dwindle. I'm not even all that sure where my time goes and for awhile, I stopped making my daily visits to my favourite blog sites. I guess you'd call that a blogging holiday. Did catch up on some reading though (for those after a feel good fiction read about bread, try Judi Hendrick's 'Bread Alone' and 'The Baker's Apprentice' - I got through those rather quickly), watched Julie/Julia (loved it!) and well, of course, continued eating and chomping away at food in front of me.

Here was one of my makeshift dinners whilst mum was away. Start with a pack of soba noodles (cook as per the instructions on the pack), top with soba sauce, seaweed and toasted sesame seeds.
For a more filling meal, have the noodles with gyoza. I love my gyoza with vinegar dipping sauce.
And to make it a little more fancy, serve with a soft boiled egg! Kudos to Char's blog - you gave me the inspiration.

All up it took me about 20 minutes to get a meal on the table which I thought was pretty good. It probably took me less time to eat it but it was a nice and simple meal which didn't cause too much of a mess. (As much as I was looking forward to trying some more recipes whilst mum was away, it turned out that there just wasn't any time. There was always things to do and the other half of the time, I just wanted to sleep).

Well, no excuses now. I'm back to blogging and hopefully some more adventurous recipes to follow.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

banana muffins

As is the usual case when mum is away, the fruit and vegies at home seem to take on a rather poorly appearance. Unfortunately, a lot of it then gets thrown out (trust me, rotten fruit and vegies neither look or smell too good). I try to keep it for as long as possible, usually thinking that I can use it for something or other (that's the handy thing about baking - you'll need that squirt of lemon or citrus rind even when the orange itself is way past its eat by date). My dad isn't a baker and he has a habit of throwing things out as he sees them. Anyway, managed to salvage these two brown specked bananas before they made their way to the bin.

Two squishy brown specked bananas - when they're looking like this, they're great for baking (they give the baked product so much more flavour and smells delicious when it's in the oven).
A recent purchase: 'Baking One Step At A Time'. It's a gorgeous book, lovely photography and recipes are extremely easy to follow.
The recipe for banana muffins was great; it asked for exactly two bananas and two bananas I had! Recipe makes 6.
Mum always used to warn me saying that anything with banana was hard to bake because it wouldn't rise. Well this recipe rises perfectly.
As I thought it would be, the banana muffin was moist and full of flavour. It wasn't too sweet either and made for a lovely afternoon tea on a Sunday. Unfortunately, the boys in the house haven't taken to the muffins so I've been the only one eating them. I reckon if I stuck a few choc chips in it, it might get my brother's attention as he seems to gobble up anything with chocolate. Anyway, there's a recipe for macarons in the book which I'm keen to try. It's been awhile since my last battle with them so wish me luck!

Monday, 5 October 2009

Mixed vegies, fishball and rice vermicelli noodles

Continuing my 15 minute dinners is one of Trish's recipes which I stumbled across whilst doing my usual blog browsing. You see, on top of my fascination for cookbooks, the Good Living on a Tuesday, food magazines, I do enjoying reading my food blogs. Trish's blog, Sugarlace was one I came across earlier this year and one which I head over to regularly for her recipes and witty commentary. I do recommend you pop by.

Anyway, back to dinner. The thing I love about this recipe is that all ingredients could be found in between my fridge, freezer and pantry. It's a most simple combination of fishballs, broccoli, carrot, garlic, onion, chilli flakes, tad of oil, rice vermicelli, fish sauce and light soy sauce.
You'll see a few black bits in there; I'm hopeless at controlling the fire on my stove. Oh well, the black bits seem to give the dish flavour.
Trish's recipe had clear vermicelli noodles. These rice vermicelli noodles work just fine.
It was great fun test driving this dish and it certainly checked all the boxes for me. It was quick to prepare, tasted great, between my brother and I, we managed to gobble it all up in the course of the night, hardly a mess to clean up and it's great that all the ingredients were just sitting there waiting for me to cook. It's also one of those recipes which you can easily improvise depending on what you have sitting around at home and better still, it's a recipe that you don't need to copy the recipe down for. Once you've made it, you can hardly forget. Tops to the lovely Trish for such a fantastic recipe!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

that bag of ikea meatballs

Mum, in case you were wondering what I've been up to for the last couple weeks, I haven't done much cooking and neither has dad. Between dad, bro and I, we've hardly made a dent to the fridge and freezer stocks. When you get back this week, it will be as you've left it. We did start getting rid of the stuff that was starting to rot unlike the last time you were away.

So much for my grand plans to do a bit more cooking whilst mum was away! There's just been no time and how very convenient it is to buy some food on the way home from work or pop something into the microwave. The very few times I've cooked, my mind was off elsewhere (usually thinking about how many loads of washing there was to do, remembering to water the flowers, paying bills), my mind just wasn't on cooking an elaborate meal. Actually, it was probably the thought of cleaning up that put me off it.

I did manage a few quick meals (not exactly the most exciting) but one would call them practical and great when you're sick of eating out or if you do feel like cooking but only feel like spending 15 minutes at it.

Ikea Meatballs with carrots, pasta and a tomato based sauce. I previously posted about that bag of Ikea meatballs, I'm still chomping my way through it and another third of the way to go. They're really quite handy - dish out a bowlful, microwave for about 2-3 minutes and they're good to eat! For this pasta, I cook them in the microwave and then pan fry them to give them a crispy skin.
There were carrots in the fridge. What I ended up doing was blanching them first in the pot of hot water I had going for the pasta. Fished them out, cooked the pasta in the carrot water, the carrots were added to the pan of sauce and meatballs for further cooking. (The sauce was a bottle we had in the pantry.) The pasta and sauce can be cooked at the same time. Once the pasta is done, strain and toss through the sauce. This entire exercise takes about 15 minutes from start to finish which I think is great.
Serve with grated parmesan.
You'll notice that I cook a lot of pasta. It's one of my favourite things to cook because it's easy, always turns out delicious and great for taking to work the next day (which I did and am eternally grateful for because it saves me having to think about what to eat from that foodcourt that's near my work. After a few years of working at the same place, you do run out of things to eat!)

Speaking of pasta, I did end up buying the The Silver Spoon Pasta Cookbook; a collection of more than 300 pasta recipes - yay! Anyway, more 15 minute recipes to follow.